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article imageFactory jobs set to disappear in the era of robotics

By Tim Sandle     Apr 3, 2021 in Technology
Robots are set to replace up to 20 million factory jobs by 2030, according to new academic study. What does this mean for human workers? The outcome depends upon the relative skills of the worker in question.
New technologies can help to address issues pertaining to workplace safety and to workplace business process technology. This includes types of wearable technology or newer processes like human digital twins. Wearables have shown considerable advantages in terms of safety. This includes the coronavirus era, such as providing the means to enable social distancing, and contact tracing at work, as well as the ability to save human jobs.
Rise of the robot
Such technologies may help to counterbalance the loss of jobs stemming from robotics. Indeed, an area of growing change within the workplace is advent of automation and robotics. For example, a recent study found that robots will replace up to 20 million factory jobs by 2030. The study comes from Oxford Economics, as reported by the BBC.
A robot called QRIO on display at the exhibition . designed by Sony.
A robot called QRIO on display at the exhibition,. designed by Sony.
The automation of materials handling is one area within which robotics is making inroads. Automation includes the pursuit for some logistics and intralogistics companies. This is shown not only with robots, but also with machine learning, and with endless miles of conveyor belts.
The impact of robotics in the Oxford report tallies with findings issued by the World Economic Forum, which concluded that “a new generation of smart machines, fueled by rapid advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, could potentially replace a large proportion of existing human jobs.”
Will I lose my job to a machine?
To a degree, despite advances with robotics and automation, the role of some human workers are likely to stay very central in logistics and material handling systems for the foreseeable future. At least for more skilled workers. The Oxford Economics study suggests that for each additional robot installed in those lower-skilled regions could lead to nearly twice as many job losses as those in higher-skilled regions of the same country.
A robot dog  designed by the Sony Corporation. On show at the Barbican AI exhibition in London.
A robot dog, designed by the Sony Corporation. On show at the Barbican AI exhibition in London.
This is because humans are unparalleled in their ability to see, conceive, and adapt seamlessly to the smallest variations – with or without a signal prompt. A human can see when the line is broken, when a piece is missing, when the dimensional capacity is a mismatch, speed is incorrect, or the color shade is incorrect in more instances than a machine can. We will continue to make our machines smarter, but we also need to continue to create tools to augment human capability.
At least for now the human, at least in certain roles, is superior to the machine.
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